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The long shadow of Israel's arm in Europe

An Israeli flag is set next to a European Union flag at the European Union Commission headquarters in Brussels on June 23, 2016 [THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP via Getty Images]
An Israeli flag is set next to a European Union flag at the European Union Commission headquarters in Brussels on June 23, 2016 [THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP via Getty Images]

Israel has been allowed to get away with far too much for far too long.

As a self-proclaimed "outpost of civilisation in the jungle", Israel has been supported by the forces of European and US imperialism for decades.

The welcome decline of the European empires meant that Israel was – correctly – viewed by them as one of the last ongoing projects of European settler-colonialism in the world. Therefore, Israel has long had much success in appealing to European governments' systemic racism as a motive for political, military and intelligence support.

Western politicians, therefore, often publicly regard Israel to be a "friendly" country – an ally. In private, however, especially among Western intelligence officials, the story is quite different.

For example, the leaked NSA documents exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 demonstrated that the US counter-intelligence agencies regard Israel – uniquely among its supposed allies – to be one of its top espionage threats.

All the others claimed such threats are states that the US loudly proclaims to be its enemies, such as China, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.

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It is not hard to see why Israeli spies are privately considered a threat to US intelligence. The Jonathan Pollard treason affair alone demonstrates this.

A former US naval intelligence officer, Pollard used his security clearances to turn traitor and spy for Israel. He spent 30 years in jail before being released by President Barack Obama.

Freed from his parole restrictions last year, Pollard was flown on Casino billionaire Israel lobbyist Sheldon Adelson's private jet to Israel in December. Warmly greeted on the tarmac by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, Pollard, the American traitor, was regarded as a national hero in Israel.

Once there, Pollard was utterly unrepentant. In a lengthy interview with Miriam Adelson's Israeli newspaper in March, he essentially conveyed that he'd do it all again and encouraged other Americans to follow his example.

Asked what he'd say to a hypothetical young American intelligence officer who was recruited by Mossad in the same way that he was, Pollard expressed that "not doing anything is unacceptable" and that the price he'd paid for Israel was worth it. However, he did warn that any man following his example should "go in with his eyes open."

Israel's blatant and open interference in democratic elections in the US and the UK is also frequently excused and concealed by political media elites.

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But one of my colleagues this week reported on some quite astonishing new revelations about Israeli intelligence's activities in Europe.

A Palestinian journalist living in Spain, Muath Hamed, says he was summoned by local police on a false pretext so that an Israeli spy could interrogate him about his journalism and threaten his safety.

To some, this story may sound fantastical. But Hamed is a respected journalist for London-based station Al Araby TV, who has reported and documented in detail Israeli spies' efforts to recruit Palestinian collaborators in Europe. The Committee to Protect Journalists has raised concerns about the case with the Spanish government, which has so far refused to investigate.

Hamed says he suspects the spy – who identified himself only as "Omar" – was a Mossad agent. The man first tried to pass himself off as a Belgian of Palestinian heritage. But as the man began speaking Arabic, Hamed immediately noticed a distinct Hebrew accent.

Hamed replied to the mystery man in Hebrew, which surprised and embarrassed the entire group of spies and cops (many Palestinians in the West Bank speak Hebrew as a second language, especially those who have spent time working in "Israel proper" or in jail as political prisoners).

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"Omar" soon confessed that he was indeed working for Israel. He then interrogated Hamed about his journalism, made statements that implied his phone was bugged, warned him not to return to Palestine (Hamed left Ramallah in 2014) and threatened the journalist.

Hamed's family has been living in fear in Spain since the incident. His wife is frightened to open the door to anyone.

There are many unanswered questions about this affair – which should be an international scandal.

Who were the two police officers who only gave their first names? Why did they bring Hamed to the police station for the Israeli interrogation late and out of hours? Why is the Spanish state seemingly allowing Mossad to act with impunity on its sovereign territory?

Will Muath Hamed and his family ever find safety anywhere in the world?

The long shadow of Israel's arm over Europe lengthens by the day.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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